As the world adjusts to the ‘new normal’, the entire pattern of work and life has shifted. One thing has especially become clear – everything we thought we knew about customers has changed, from their movements to their purchasing habits, to the products they buy, writes Gary Allemann, Managing Director at Master Data Management.

Trusted data is now more important than ever and extracting value from the data is a critical source of competitive advantage. Businesses must reconsider their data strategy to ensure they can keep up in a world where the future is uncertain, and the only real constant is that everything keeps changing.

Data is the heart of insight

The major benefit of a digital world is the plethora of data available for analysis. However, if businesses are not extracting value from the data, it is useless to them, and they will likely fall behind their competitors who are doing so. Extracting value from data delivers better insight, competitive analysis, improved products and the ability to understand how to adapt to change, which is the key to becoming more successful.

In order to achieve this, data needs to be accessible to everyone who needs it to do their job. This may seem like a simple task, but with the way digital transformation has occurred, data siloes are a real barrier. There is also the challenge of providing the right data to the right people while still ensuring it is protected from both a security and a data privacy perspective. Adding to the challenge, data needs to flow seamlessly between networks and external devices.

The foundation for extracting value

Working with data has become increasingly complex in the new paradigm. These four foundations ensure value can be extracted to drive insight for competitive advantage and enhanced success rates:

  • Data transparency – this is the ability to easily find, understand and access the data you need, no matter where it is located or what application was used to create it. Part of this is the assurance that data is accurate and originates from an official source, in other words, that it can be trusted. Governance plays a significant role in this element, and tools such as data lineage are an important component.
  • Data integrity – these flows from data transparency and is the ability to deliver trusted data for both operations and analytics. Businesses need to know that their data is accurate for the purpose it needs to be used, and that it can be accessed and located whenever and wherever it is required.
  • Data privacy – protecting the fundamental rights of your staff, customers and suppliers has never been more important, with the growth of digitalisation and the increase in data privacy legislation. This includes the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA). Organisations need to know what sensitive information they have, where it is being stored and for what purpose it is used. Data privacy is not about blocking access to data, because this will prevent it from being used at all, but about creating the necessary nuances around levels of control, to make data accessible based on role and requirements.
  • Data literacy – the need to understand how to use and manage data. If people do not have this knowledge, they will not be able to use data to extract value. Training is essential to ensure that everyone in the organisation, from senior management down, understands the importance of data and data integrity, how to analyse and assess data, and importantly, how to leverage data better.

Intrinsically linked

These foundations are not separate pillars as none of them can be easily delivered in isolation. They are all intrinsically interlinked and form part of an ongoing process to continually extract and leverage the value of data, so making the appropriate investment at the appropriate time is crucial.

This is a complex challenge that requires a systematic approach with a long-term view, beginning with a specific use case or problem and then solving for that problem. Getting the foundations in place and investing in technology, services and partnerships will empower organisations to begin their journey on the right foot.

Data is always changing, so business requirements around it must continually evolve, and the right partner is key in helping organisations leverage their data investment in the long term.

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